Reviews The Press

The new MMR?

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.328.7442.773 (Published 25 March 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:773
  1. Geoff Watts, freelance medical journalist

    Are the media stirring up a fresh autism scare?

    On 15 March the Daily Mail reported that a scientist had made some disturbing claims about a common three-in-one childhood vaccine. In a nutshell, it could cause autism. Campaigners were demanding that the vaccine be phased out forthwith, and replaced by an available alternative. The government was resisting their demands, arguing that the alternative was less effective.

    More on MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), you might be thinking. All a bit passé, surely. But no—the vaccine in this case is against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) and the alleged link with autism is supposed to be mediated by thiomersal, the mercury-based material used as a preservative in the version of the vaccine commonly administered in Britain.

    TheMail's article wasn't the first outing for this story and, apart from a few paragraphs two days later in the London Evening Standard, it made few waves. This time too it could just die. Or, for any of a …

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